A BLACKBURN church is experiencing soaring attendance figures thanks to the town’s Polish community.

Father Jim McCartney invited Poles to worship at St Anne’s Church, France Street, after hearing the congregation had grown too big for the Queen of Poland Chapel on Preston New Road.

Now services in English and Polish are taking place at the church every Sunday, effectively doubling the number of parishioners.

The Polish service is held by Father Robert Pytel, who also holds masses at St John the Baptist in Burnley, at Holy Saviour in Nelson and at St Joseph’s in Accrington.

He said: “Because we have now got so many Polish parishioners our chapel was too small to hold mass comfortably, and we couldn’t continue as we were. Father Jim said he had spoken to the bishop and that he was more than happy to welcome the polish community to St Anne’s. I’m very pleased and it is working out well.

“The chapel can only hold 60 people so there were those who wanted to attend mass but couldn’t. Many had to stand on the stairs or go into the downstairs room and watch a television link of what was happening upstairs.

“It wasn’t really acceptable as you don’t have the atmosphere of being at mass. I would also like to encourage English people to come along as they are very welcome to come to mass and to stay for coffee and cake afterwards.”

St Anne’s Church was destroyed by fire in December 2000, which forced parishioners to worship at St Anne’s School.

After four years of fundraising, parishioners managed to renovate the Grade II listed building but by this time the 200-strong parishioners had dwindled to a group of around 40 people.

In recent years the English congregation had grown, but hadn’t reached the same levels as before the fire.

Church administrator Joan Entwistle said the addition of the Polish congregation has contributed to the cost of the church’s upkeep and means the church is open to people for longer periods in the day.

She said: “The church is a lovely welcoming place, now we are open for longer periods and we’re happy to have the Polish congregation here as it’s worked to everyone’s benefit. I find it very easy to follow the Polish services and the choir is a welcome addition.”

Polish mass is still being heard at the 60-year-old Queen of Poland Chapel, on Saturday and Sunday nights at 7pm and 8.30am.

Both English and Polish people are welcome to attend Polish mass at 10am every Sunday and to the Polish Club afterwards for coffee and cake.